A Real Stumper!
What do Mayans, medieval monks, UFOs, and scientific experiments have to do with one another? Hopefully someone who has the astounding insight needed to solve this game’s ultimate riddle will let us know eventually! Many a casual adventure or puzzle fan will take interest in Infernus: Verse 2 (Out Now, $1.99) for its crisp visual presentation and immersive atmosphere, but only a few are liable to cross the finish line.
Naturally Verse 2 begins where Verse 1 left off, its amnesiac protagonist wandering a facility with no idea how he or she wound up here in the first place. The player guides this individual from a first-person perspective as whoever it is moves room to room, pocketing items useful for progress while fighting off disturbing psychedelic experiences — are threatening whispers and frightful screams really emanating from behind closed doors, or are they figments of this person’s imagination? Verse 2 captures the essence of psychological horror by relying on the oppressive emptiness of its environments rather than tangible foes.
While the comparable Hysteria Project series flirts with the notion of objects-as-story – in which the player must piece together a plot from written and verbal records – Infernus gains an edge by fleshing that concept out to its full potential. Taped recordings, a photograph apparently stolen from the player character, and classified documents strewn around the facility are all there is to go on as far as figuring out what may have brought about the bizarre adventure. This technique seizes the player’s curiosity to an admirable degree.
Stashing or otherwise interacting with items usually invokes helpful commentary that serves as guidance on where to go next or how tools may be used, and this effectively replaces the Hint system typically found in related genres. Unfortunately a critical lapse in this practice about forty-five minutes in will prove a frustrating and perhaps insurmountable stumbling block for most players, if my experience is any indication. As the player wanders around he or she is bombarded with a series of numbers; they’re prominently introduced in psychic visions, faint scrawling on brick walls, partially blacked out dates in classified reports, etc. These are evidently to be used in solving an ultimate puzzle that keeps the protagonist herded in the facility. In what order or combination they are to be used, now, that’s the subject of many heatedly-typed emails sure to land in Motalen’s inbox!
It’s too bad Verse 2 comes up short on thorough gameplay hints, because it’s otherwise very well built. Its touch controls are decidedly complex, making use of pinch-zooming for forward and backward motion, swiping for view angle changes, and touch-and-hold for crouching where needed. However, these movements quickly become second nature and they’re well worth an unobscured view of the game’s environments. Turning doors remains a bit of a hassle and the UI’s standout weakness; the player has to get very close to them before touch interaction kicks in, and by that point they consume so much screen space the game engine has difficulty telling whether the player is trying to move the door or change view angle. An ability to review the opening control tutorial at any time during the game would also be helpful — I embarrassingly had to re-install to review it when I forgot how to crouch early on. Players should also beware the “quit” button in Verse 2‘s options menu, which clears progress without warning.
Verse 2 is unquestionably well delivered on an aesthetic level. While it lacks music for the most part it gets lots of mileage out of vaguely disturbing voice clips. On the downside, the brightness of its environments ranges so drastically as to prompt the player to keep manually adjusting it via menu — no flashlight item to be found here. Also, provided one of its voice clips plays as important a role in solving the most difficult puzzle as I suspect, Verse 2 will have below-average accessibility to the hearing impaired unless captions are implemented for it.
iFanzine Verdict: Puzzle-centric adventure games on iOS have built a reputation for incorporating thorough hint systems that maximize accessibility, so lack of it here brings Infernus: Verse 2 down a notch for all but the most diehard do-it-yourself puzzle solvers. If you’re willing to factor time spent pestering the developer for solutions into its purchase price, however, it succeeds as an immersive and intriguing experience for the short while that it lasts.